On December 28th around 8 p.m., Susan and I were in a restaurant having dinner with some friends. There was a call on my cell phone from Norio Kushi. Norio and I have been close friends for many years. He wanted to let me know personally that his father had passed away that morning. He wanted to give me the details before the news went public. Knowing this day would come did not lessen the shock.
Michio and Aveline Kushi were my spiritual parents. They invited me into their family shortly after we met. Even though I am dedicating this memorial to Michio, it is difficult for me to think of and remember him without also appreciating and acknowledging Aveline.
I met Michio in February, 1969 when he came to lecture in Philadelphia before we opened our store, Essene. I got to the lecture early simply so I could ask him a question. I told him I was opening a macrobiotic store, and asked him if he had any advice for me. His words were: “Keep it clean. If it isn’t clean, it isn’t macrobiotic.” These words stuck with me forever, and I think his words were one of the keys to our success. The same effort we put into keeping the store spotless, we put into the quality of our food and the quality of service to our customers.
At 19, I was lost and confused, and had no idea about how I wanted to live my life. The one thing I knew for certain was that I didn’t want to follow in the suggested path set by society. I had recently read George Ohsawa’s books that talked about a brighter future and how we could create our health and happiness, but I needed more. At the lectures, Michio spoke of everything under the sun, from the meaning of life, to how to cure cancer, to world peace. One, peaceful world was the central theme to Michio’s message. He taught that world peace can only be achieved through healthy people.
On the second day of Michio’s lectures in Philadelphia, I was invited to the home of Rod and Peggy House with about twenty others. At this gathering, Michio said that he didn’t want many friends. The statement startled me. Michio followed by saying he only wanted just a handful of friends who could really understand this way, and together we could change the world. At that moment, I knew I wanted to be one of those friends. Meeting Michio changed my life.
He had an amazing and indomitable spirit. In the early 70s, when I tried to expand the Essene distribution company too quickly, we ran into serious financial difficulties. As we were walking out the door on the way to a lecture, Michio paused and told me not to worry. He said that even if I lost everything, we would simply start again from my own home. This struck me deeply yet again, and demonstrated to me how clear and penetrating Michio’s insight and advice was in all areas of life. Incidentally, we were able to reach a settlement, close the distribution company, and save the store.
No one could keep up with Michio; he was relentless in the pursuit of his dream to change this world. He often talked about lighting fires as he endlessly travelled the world to inspire people and ignite them into action. Michio taught me that anything was possible and I always admired his vitality. His endless spirit continues to inspire my life and my own approach to healing. “The Book of Macrobiotics” largely sums up the heart of his teachings. I wanted to move to Boston to study with Michio, but Essene, being in Philadelphia, kept me there.
I went back and forth between Boston and Philadelphia to continue my studies and maintain my connection with Michio. Michio popularized study houses, which were houses run by individuals or couples where we could live, practice, and study together. The study houses made macrobiotic education both affordable and practical. I attended Michio’s leadership seminar for two months in 1973. In addition, I stayed at different study houses for two weeks twice a year. I also attended every new seminar that Michio created and sponsored his visits to Philadelphia. Through these regular visits, my friendship and mentorship with Aveline began to grow and became a crucial part of my life. During this time, it became apparent to me how Aveline was both a powerful stabilizing factor for Michio as well as a driving force for the entire macrobiotic movement.
In 1981, during my twelfth year of practice, Michio asked me if I ever doubted macrobiotics. When I replied “No,” he told me that now I could change the entire world. I was very blessed to have met Michio at such a young stage of my life. He told me on a few occasions that he was born too early to see the fruits of his labors, but that I would, and I took that to heart. He also told me that the macrobiotic movement would follow the development of this country, where the ideas started in Boston, but were enacted in Philadelphia. This is also part of the reason why I have chosen to remain in Philadelphia.
Michio had a powerful psychic ability that he used in his counseling. He had an amazing ability to see not only people’s specific health, but even certain foods they had eaten on certain days. I was often self-conscious that he would be able to tell I had been eating something he may not have approved of. His long term predictions were amazingly accurate. He painted a picture for society more than forty years ago that I would say that today, are precise. He saw in the 60s that we would continue down a path towards increasing degenerative illness, social unrest, over medication, and the further destruction of the environment. The vast scope of his teachings demonstrated very clearly the relationships and connections between diet, health, environment, and spiritual development.
The last time I saw Michio was August 3rd, 2013 at the Kushi Summer Conference in New Jersey. Michio scolded me among my peers for recommending sardines to a shared client. He asked me if I could help the client with plant-based recommendations alone, and if I was following up regularly to tell them to stop the sardines when they were no longer needed. The scolding was relentless and beyond intimidating and I did my best to remain calm and stand by my recommendations. I finally said “You know, Michio, that not everyone practices the way we like them to,” and that changed the tone. There was a running joke among the teachers about sardines for the rest of the conference. It was an experience that I am sure I will ponder for the rest of my life.
The last time I spoke with Michio was this past October. I called him just before Susan and I left for the teachers’ meeting in Lisbon to ask him if he had any messages for the group. He asked me to give his and his wife’s, Midori, regards and he hoped that everyone would study well together. These were the last words we exchanged. I always called on January 3rd or 4th to wish him and his family a happy new year, so I was very glad to have called him then. Otherwise, we would not have spoken.
There was no stone he left unturned regarding the education about all of health and all of life. Michio had a powerful presence and magnetism; people wanted to be around him. He had an amazing ability to inspire people and encourage them to pursue their dreams. People would travel great distances just to see him, and would also pay large sums of money for his counsel and guidance. He constantly tried to help people see and realize their full potential in both health and life.
It is my hope that the depth and scope of Michio’s contributions will be more fully understood. Before Michio, there was no natural foods movement because there were practically no natural foods. He encouraged the development of local, natural food producers and processors, food stores, restaurants, educational, publishing, and distribution centers. High-quality, natural foods as well as pickled and fermented foods are now widely available and sought after. He was largely responsible for introducing futons, the practice of acupuncture, shiatsu massage and making the work of Masanobu Fukuoka (the author of “One Straw Revolution”) known. His teachings have influenced people from all walks of life, across the entire range of professional and artistic fields.
We are on the cusp of a nutritional and biological revolution which is laying the groundwork for the age of macrobiotics. The future of macrobiotics is with those who can understand, reinterpret, and express the teachings of Michio, Aveline, and their associates for our times. Now that both Michio and Aveline have passed, I find it more important than ever to dedicate the next part of my life to mentoring the new generation of macrobiotic teachers and leaders. I want to align with those who are like-minded so that our combined expression conveys the attractiveness and timeliness of the spirit and teachings of macrobiotics.
It is hard to express the loss and sadness of Michio’s passing. I find it unfortunate that his work is not more widely acknowledged and recognized today, despite how many lives have been transformed by his life. However, I feel that recognition of Michio’s contributions to society will continue to grow, as will his memory. It is my hope that we as his students and associates can bring honor to the teachings that he and Aveline gave to us.
There will be a memorial service followed by a reception in Boston on January 31, 2015 to honor and celebrate Michio Kushi.
I wanted to address some of the points made in an article from The Guardian. The article states that detox itself is a myth and that there is little we can do to aid in the process of eliminating toxins. I agree that there is no one solve-all detox method. I’d like to bring some understanding and clarity to this whole process. Detox is a very real thing that we perform all of the time. Detox is a natural part of a healthy life; it is the ability to let go and release the physical, energetic, and emotional excess we’ve gathered throughout the day and over time. It is a similar process to cleaning a room; we tidy today’s mess, but we also clean the mess that builds up over time. Detox is more than what goes into our body, it is also about what we can not release. The ability to consistently and rhythmically gather, process, and release excess is the way I define a healthy metabolism. We regulate metabolism through mealtimes and food choices. Eating consistently at regular times and basing our meals around grains, beans, and vegetables allows us to create a healthy metabolism. Our metabolism is further strengthened by sitting down to eat our meals, thoroughly chewing, and also by walking, cleaning, and other natural activities. During the day, we are active and taking physical nourishment. At night, our bodies utilize the foods we’ve eaten during the day to maintain, repair, and gather the excesses for elimination. Early to bed and early to rise are they keys to creating a healthy metabolism, ideally sleeping before midnight and waking no later than 7 a.m. Sources of toxins The process of detox Our kidneys and intestines, liver, lungs, and skin are all part of the detox process. In order to eliminate, our body needs to localize excess first, in various areas of the body. The most healthy and efficient way of eliminating excess is through our kidneys and intestines. If there is excess that can not be be completely eliminated through the kidneys and intestines, the lungs and skin assist the detox process. The liver breaks down and metabolizes fats, as well as neutralizes both toxins and acidity. Detox is further aided through natural outdoor activity, expression, and even thought. With a positive mind, the ability to gather and eliminate excess increases. When we are depressed and closed off, there is a higher chance of stagnation and gathering of excess into toxins. This is why there can be no one method for detox, because the process is comprehensive and related to our entire diet, lifestyle and outlook. The body is constantly trying to create order, to clean, and renew itself. Healthy dietary and lifestyle habits contribute to a more efficient detox process. I’ve found that the causes of many illnesses are from what we are unable to release. The 7 steps explained in “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet” are designed around the daily practices we can adopt for healthy nourishment and elimination. The combination of our food choices, eating habits (such as sitting down to eat and specific mealtimes), integrated life activity, and the body rub, detox occurs naturally with little to no forethought. Detox can be aided through different types of internal and external home remedies. However, remedies must be combined with diet and lifestyle habits to be effective in the detox process. Detox remedies can not replace or substitute for good diet and lifestyle practices.
-Environmental pollutants. The most common in today’s environments are heavy metals, industrial pollutants, plastics, and some forms of radiation.
-Food choices. There are always parts in foods that our body doesn’t use in the digestive process. Even the healthiest food will have some waste that must be eliminated. Poor quality (refined and processed), and more excessive foods (animal, dairy, and added sugars), leave behind more harmful byproducts for elimination.
-Poor digestion. The combination of eating habits and food choices may contribute to poor or sluggish digestion. Foods lacking fiber and overeating often stagnate the digestive system. There is physical limit to how much our digestive system can process. A weaker digestive system has more difficulty breaking down foods and absorbing available nutrition. This often leads to a lack of satisfaction and overeating. The later we eat a meal, the longer it takes for our body to digest the same amount of food, and with each hour, digestion becomes more sluggish. When we eat within three hours of falling asleep, we don’t have enough time to digest the foods, and while horizontal, digestion slows even more, which also causes foods to putrefy.
I wanted to address some of the points made in an article from The Guardian. The article states that detox itself is a myth and that there is little we can do to aid in the process of eliminating toxins. I agree that there is no one solve-all detox method. I’d like to bring some understanding and clarity to this whole process. Detox is a very real thing that we perform all of the time.
Detox is a natural part of a healthy life; it is the ability to let go and release the physical, energetic, and emotional excess we’ve gathered throughout the day and over time. It is a similar process to cleaning a room; we tidy today’s mess, but we also clean the mess that builds up over time. Detox is more than what goes into our body, it is also about what we can not release. The ability to consistently and rhythmically gather, process, and release excess is the way I define a healthy metabolism.
We regulate metabolism through mealtimes and food choices. Eating consistently at regular times and basing our meals around grains, beans, and vegetables allows us to create a healthy metabolism. Our metabolism is further strengthened by sitting down to eat our meals, thoroughly chewing, and also by walking, cleaning, and other natural activities.
During the day, we are active and taking physical nourishment. At night, our bodies utilize the foods we’ve eaten during the day to maintain, repair, and gather the excesses for elimination. Early to bed and early to rise are they keys to creating a healthy metabolism, ideally sleeping before midnight and waking no later than 7 a.m.
Sources of toxins
The process of detox
Our kidneys and intestines, liver, lungs, and skin are all part of the detox process. In order to eliminate, our body needs to localize excess first, in various areas of the body. The most healthy and efficient way of eliminating excess is through our kidneys and intestines. If there is excess that can not be be completely eliminated through the kidneys and intestines, the lungs and skin assist the detox process. The liver breaks down and metabolizes fats, as well as neutralizes both toxins and acidity. Detox is further aided through natural outdoor activity, expression, and even thought. With a positive mind, the ability to gather and eliminate excess increases. When we are depressed and closed off, there is a higher chance of stagnation and gathering of excess into toxins.
This is why there can be no one method for detox, because the process is comprehensive and related to our entire diet, lifestyle and outlook. The body is constantly trying to create order, to clean, and renew itself. Healthy dietary and lifestyle habits contribute to a more efficient detox process.
I’ve found that the causes of many illnesses are from what we are unable to release. The 7 steps explained in “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet” are designed around the daily practices we can adopt for healthy nourishment and elimination. The combination of our food choices, eating habits (such as sitting down to eat and specific mealtimes), integrated life activity, and the body rub, detox occurs naturally with little to no forethought.
Detox can be aided through different types of internal and external home remedies. However, remedies must be combined with diet and lifestyle habits to be effective in the detox process. Detox remedies can not replace or substitute for good diet and lifestyle practices.
There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote has recently been on my mind; it has a strong ring of truth in it. It is clear from much of Emerson’s work that he was able to connect with the common mind and experience of humanity. It stands to reason that we can apply the idea of one common mind to one common heart. The shift that we are currently experiencing shows us that empathy is growing in society.
We can see in the news everyday that there is more awareness in our culture for both the joys and sufferings of others. It has been recognized for some time, on an intellectual level, that our modern society is headed for trouble. Now, we are feeling the emotional aspects of these troubling truths whether in the realm of civil and human rights, animal rights, planetary health, or the connections being made between diet and overall health. What starts in the mind can develop into a feeling, and once feelings are experienced, our ability to act becomes much more natural.
We are all going into the future together for better or worse. Now is a time where we have the opportunity to engage our common mind with our common heart. Experiencing our common heart can enable us to work together and begin moving towards a brighter future for everyone.
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I invite you to take the MACRO leap.
Macrobiotics is not a fad diet; it is humanity’s original way of eating. Perhaps most importantly, macrobiotics is a lifestyle for everyone. The practice is all-inclusive because it is a constant journey of adding healthy, balanced practices into daily life. Practicing macrobiotics is flexible and adaptable to anywhere we happen to be.
This way of life is based on the dietary and lifestyle traditions of all of the world’s long-standing civilizations. These civilizations learned to create health and longevity through adapting to their climate and specific conditions. Each culture contributed to our global culture through its cuisine, history, arts, and sciences.
Our nutrition comes from plant-based foods either directly or indirectly. We receive second-hand and inferior nourishment from animals who have eaten these foods. Grains, beans, and vegetables enable us to make a direct connection to nature and the environment. Choosing local and indigenous foods makes the strongest and most direct connection to where we live. Grains, beans, and vegetables alone also provide enough food to feed and sustain a global population.
Macrobiotics is an empowering practice that awakens and deepens our confidence in our own ability to create and maintain lasting health. We can start immediately with just one meal, and expand and develop our practice over time. As we move in the direction of health, we experience a deeper connection with our own source of life and nature. We begin to move towards fuller physical and emotional well-being, and our fears and anxieties melt away.
The macrobiotic diet has many things in common across cultures, such as the cultivation of grains, beans and vegetables, as well as the natural preservation practices of pickling, fermenting, smoking, salting, and drying foods. Along with an appreciation of broader, universal patterns, there is also an appreciation of unique connections to locality. There is no one “Chinese food,” “French food,” or “Italian food,” but different regional cuisines that express a people’s harmonious relationship with a locality or region. Macrobiotic practice helps us to develop an orderly rhythm to life and a deep resonance with our unique circumstances.
Pickling and fermenting foods using traditional methods naturally preserves the foods. Secondly these methods enhance the taste and nutritional qualities of the food. This transforms the life of the food by inviting bacteria, microbes and oxygen to derive nourishment from the food and transform it into something new. The most unique and enjoyable foods and beverages in the world come from a simple principle of inviting life in. This is one of the core messages of macrobiotics: let life in.
From this, everyone can learn to make health-supporting choices, no matter the circumstance. The orderly practice of macrobiotics supports the transformation of healthy choices into healthy habits. Our health and environmental health are related. The environment is a direct reflection of our collective state of health. The macro leap embraces the outwardly spiraling journey towards health, for with health, there is life. Are you in for the macro leap?
I was happy to find an article in The New York Times that reinforces the importance of eating healthy meals at regular times. This is an issue I have been writing and teaching about for more than 20 years, so it is nice to see these ideas getting mainstream support. The article links the effects of eating late and consuming sweets, soft drinks, and fatty foods with acid reflux. According to the author of the article, Jamie A. Koufman, MD, acid reflux produces a variety of symptoms in addition to heartburn and indigestion. Postnasal drip, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, chronic throat clearing, coughing and asthma are often reported symptoms with patients dealing with acid reflux. I find it interesting that many of these symptoms are perceived as being unrelated to acid reflux, but according to Oriental medicine, they are related to digestive and kidney function. Dr. Koufman comments that there has been a significant rise in the number of people dealing with acid reflex in the last 30 years as our food choices and meal times deteriorate.
In our new edition of The Complete Macrobiotic Diet, we have provided clear guidance around the content and times for healthy meals. Our digestive system is only able to digest and process our food at certain times of the day, and these have become recognized as meal times around the world.
These are start times and the meal actually begins when you sit down at the dining table. We recommend that breakfast start anywhere between the hours of 5 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., and even possibly 9 a.m. Lunch should begin between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. And dinner should start between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
In addition to not eating three hours before bedtime, it is important to make lunch a regular, consistent practice. The midday meal is the one meal you do not want to miss. In today’s hectic world, it is important to take the time to share meals together. Meals are a time to return to balance and reconnect with family, friends and loved ones. Sharing food together is not only an expression of our appreciation for food and nature, but also for each other.
A number of my longtime clients are elderly women who have come to me with a variety of health concerns. I have counseled these women over many years regarding their diet and lifestyle practices according to macrobiotic principles. Some of these women have had serious falls where you would except them to break a bone, and surprisingly they have not. I attribute their strong bones and quick recovery to their macrobiotic practice. Even those of my clients that have experienced broken bones, have healed in about half the time expected. This would not be the case if they had osteoporosis.
In addition, my longtime observation is that children who were born and raised following the macrobiotic diet and lifestyle have stronger and thicker bones than their peers. This is something I have found to be true around the world. Both of these situations lead me to believe that there is not a problem with phytic acid and mineral absorption from the amount of grain we eat as part of our macrobiotic practice.
There is a general consensus that soaking grains is desirable for taste and digestibility; however there is not a general agreement on the best method for soaking grains. I found the information in the blog post from macrosano.com very interesting and helpful. I would like to inform you of the way we recommend soaking grains. Experiment and see which way you like best. The only way to really know is to try a specific way for weeks or months and try to see which method is more suitable. If you are not sure, you can always vary your soaking method.
This is our method for soaking and cooking rice. We recommend rinsing the rice in cold water two or three times. Measure out the water for cooking and soak overnight or longer, basically between 8-22 hours. Overnight soaking is more beneficial. When ready to cook the rice, add a pinch of sea salt or a half inch square piece of kombu and then boil or pressure cook as normal.
We’ve been soaking grains in this way for many years and feel very comfortable in it. Brown rice is the most sensitive food to our intentions, feelings and emotions; it is uniquely sensitive to our own condition. Taking time to properly prepare rice in this manner ensures a happy and satisfying meal. Soaking and cooking rice in this manner is not an afterthought; it is an act that conveys respect and appreciation.
It is becoming more and more evident that diet can prevent and even reverse serious illness including many cancers. This means that our health is in our own hands. I find it interesting that there is so much resistance to this vital and life changing information. Two articles, Can Cancer Be Prevented- and Even Cured- Through Diet? This Scientist is Convinced it Can; T. Colin Campbell has set off a war with the food industry, and This Breast Cancer Month, Don’t think Pink- Think Green, present important information that you can use in the discussion of diet, health and illness.
I found an interesting article from NPR about gut microbes and diet soda. Healthy gut microbes aide in digestion and absorption of nutrients and the elimination of waste. All of these processes are supported by good eating habits and a whole-foods plant-based diet, together with naturally fermented and pickled foods. I have discussed the details of these processes in another blog.
As healthy gut microbes diminish, unhealthy ones try to take over. Certain foods specifically interfere with our healthy gut microbes. The most harmful foods are artificial sweeteners, chemicalized foods, iced drinks and cold foods like ice cream and frozen yogurt. Hard baked flour products, dairy, and animal based products also interfere with the healthy functioning of our gut. If we cannot eliminate unhealthy foods, they have more of a tendency to putrefy and toxify us.
Common sense tells us that natural foods simply prepared nurture healthy gut microbes. It has been my longtime observation that people that consume these harmful foods have more problems with weight, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain kinds of cancers. It is not a good idea to wait for scientific evidence to come to a final decision regarding our diets. Grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits have weathered the test of time and have proven to support our health.
Neal Barnard wrote a great article for The Huffington Post this past summer. He clarifies the social and environmental benefits of eating a grain and bean based diet. It is becoming increasingly clear that the time is now to start eating grains, beans and other plant based foods directly, rather than using these foods to raise animals in factory farms.
The strengthening health approach to macrobiotics is a perfect solution to this problem, as it encourages adding, rather than taking away. I have observed that as people make the choice to incorporate grains, beans and vegetables into their diet, the attraction to less healthy foods diminishes naturally. Health craves health. In my own life, brown rice was my first step towards a healthier diet. After eating brown rice, the vegetables I had shunned for years became delicious and attractive, and after that I started to seek out more and more healthier foods. Eating my last Philly cheesesteak at 19 years old left me with a sense of joy and adventure, rather than loss.
We can no longer separate personal, social, and environmental health. The macrobiotic approach is wonderful because it gives us the guidelines to make these vitally important choices everyday and know that we are doing our part to nurture the health of our planet. I hope you use these principles to move yourself and loved ones towards a healthier lifestyle.
For many Americans, Lou Gehrig is remembered as the Iron Horse, playing 17 seasons for the New York Yankees, but for many others, he is associated with ALS, or amytophic lateral sclerosis. Between 1925 and 1939 Gehrig didn’t miss a game; his prowess as a hitter won him national acclaim. So when at the age of 35 his batting average slowed, it was clear something was wrong. Doctors did not diagnose Gehrig with ALS at that time, but did identify problems with his gall bladder. Three years later, Gehrig would be dead from the effects of ALS, a rapidly progressive, fatal disease that degenerates the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Today ALS is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease and according to the ALS Association more than 30,000 Americans are effected by the disease. From a macrobiotic perspective, ALS is caused by an imbalanced diet and lifestyle. A diet that is rich in heavy animal foods, like meat, poultry, eggs, shellfish, and other fatty animal foods, together with fruits, citrus, chocolate, cold foods, like ice cream, and iced drinks, has an adverse effect on the stomach and pancreas. Medications and chemically altered foods may also play a part.
I became interested in Lou Gehrig’s diagnosis of ALS after seeing a photograph of him with Jimmie Foxx and Babe Ruth. In the image Gehrig’s arms are crossed in front of his stomach, a sharp contrast to Foxx and Ruth, appearing open with arms at their sides; for me it was apparent there was a correlation between his posture and weakness in his central digestive organs, especially his pancreas. According to macrobiotic diagnosis, Gehrig’s posture, arms folded and slightly leaning forward, shows a weakness in the central digestive system, especially the stomach and pancreas.
I began to wonder what Lou Gehrig’s diet might have been like. After searching around the internet, I found a blog post, http://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/als-aka-lou-gehrigs-disease/ that described Gehrig’s diet as being rich in sodium and fats. His favorite foods were fried eel and shrimp, and he loved other fatty foods.
It seems that those involved with sports and entertainment are among the highest percentage of people to develop ALS. Athletes and performers often live chaotic lives. Because the pancreas thrives on order and regularity of meal times and lifestyle practices, it is important to establish consistency.
The foods that harm our central digestive organs also effect our motor neurons. The macrobiotic approach is to replace foods heavy in animal protein and fat with plant based protein and vegetable oil. It is important to have a very wide and varied macrobiotic practice. In addition, we recommend rubbing the body, especially the extremities with a damp, warm cloth morning and night to help circulation. To benefit from macrobiotics practices, an experienced and qualified macrobiotics counselor is needed to complement any medical treatment.
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